Soon: Chapter 15: Miracles and Changes

Ah, miracles.  We’ve had so many of them so far in Soon

The Reflecting Pool in Washington turned to blood.

An earthquake happened in California.

An oil well caught fire in TEXAS.

Trees died in Washington.

I mean, sure, these could all be explained by natural events or by human terrorism, but hey, they’re miracles, right? 

Maybe?

God sure is all America First, isn’t he?  Guess those poor, confused atheists in Canada and Spain and Egypt and China and Brazil just don’t deserve any easily-explained-by-real-things miracles.

Honestly, why doesn’t God do something really cool and unmistakably from him, since the world is populated largely by atheists, many of whom have had no exposure to any religion in their entire lives?

Why doesn’t he rearrange the stars to spell out (in every language spoken on Earth):

THIS IS THE GOD OF THE RELIGION FORMERLY KNOWN AS CHRISTIANITY.  I AM DAD OF JESUS.  ALL YOU ATHEISTS DOWN THERE?  HI.  QUIT WITH THOSE LAWS OUTLAWING RELIGION.  OR AT LEAST THE LAWS OUTLAWING REAL, TRUE CHRISTIANITY. 

THANKS IN ADVANCE!

TOODLES,

GOD

But oh, no, it makes a bunch more sense to make already-genetically-engineered trees wither and die.  Real clear of you, God.  Thanks for that.

But forget all that!  Because now, we have a totally genuine and indisputable miracle on our hands! 

Or at least, in Paul’s eyes.

Having once again shot down his wife’s every idea, Paul plays it his own way and waits for the next day to see his doctor.

I am no opthalmologist, so I want to be as clear here as possible and try to figure out what’s going on.  As a reminder, Dr. Bihari said from the beginning that there was a chance, albeit a very small one, that Paul could regain his sight.  From Chapter 10–

“There is considerable damage that may only be able to be rectified through transplant surgery.  But the body is an amazing self-healing machine.

My guess is that there is a better than 90 percent chance that you will require transplant surgery in order to have any return of vision.”

Now that he finds out what Paul can see (which is not all that much yet; just the first two lines of an eye chart), Bihari is “astounded“:

“I don’t understand it, but I wouldn’t want to mess with nature yet.  Let’s see how much better this gets [before we consider eye transplants].”

So, he’s surprised, as one would be when someone beats long odds, but I don’t see Bihari calling a press conference or even getting another expert in to see if s/he has ever seen anything like this.  Probably because Bihari was always of the opinion that Paul might actually regain his sight. 

What is it with these non-miracle miracles???

Change of subject: I am giving this chapter an Actually Not That Bad designation.  It’s the first one for this book (where are you when we need you, Dr. Isis Proserpina McDonald?), and it’s a bit of a pity-ANTB, but I do like that Jenkins actually acknowledges Jae’s conflicted feelings about Paul’s recovery:

Jae was confused.  She didn’t know how to feel.  She ought to be overjoyed, but she was furious with Paul about the letter.  Now she didn’t know how to confront him.  He’d be angry and claim the correspondence was innocent…How could Jae believe in him again?  She was sick of his deception…Forcing him out now would be unforgivable, the final blow in their marriage.  Jae wasn’t ready to take that step.  She needed time and space to think things over and–if nothing else–to prove to Paul she meant business.

Now there’s an obvious problem here: Paul has been serially cheating, lying, and emotionally abusive for years, but it’s Jae that will be striking the “final blow” be responding?

You know, if I were Jae (*shudders*), I would also be royally pissed that this is approximately the 4,732nd time Paul has jumped into a pile of shit and come out smelling like a rose.  A particularly egregious instance of this, too, as Paul compounded cruelty and stupidity: he was just about to shoot a guy, then followed Donny into territory Donny knew well, in order to “rescue” him, then took off his glasses when he had every reason to suspect a dangerous environment.  But trust Paul to get everything he wants, even when he’s caused every bit of his own misery.  Tool.

But it’s okay, because Jae is going to wait until the kids finish school (it’s now May), and pack them up and go to her parents!  All I can say, Jae, is ABOUT DAMN TIME!!!

But wait!  Surely now that Paul is a Real True Christian, Jae will see the remarkable changes in his heart!  He has faith in the one true God now, he’s following the teachings of Jesus!  Aren’t we always told that this makes people better than they were?  Naturally Paul will become a more attentive and less abusive husband and father! 

His routine stayed the same: listening to discs in the den all morning with the door closed, waiting for Straight; holing up with him all afternoon; and then going out to chess clubs several evenings a week.

Oh.

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Posted on June 9, 2011, in Actually Not That Bad, Books, Soon. Bookmark the permalink. 34 Comments.

  1. So accursedly typical of Jenkins’s work, isn’t it? I can just imagine it as a sales pitch.

    “Convert! You don’t have to be a better person, you just have to join the winning side.”

    • I wonder if they think there’s any way to INHERENTLY be better. Conversion, perhaps, isn’t seen as transmutation of philosophy so much as LITERAL divine possession (albeit by invitation). This also puts the idea of Jesus’s blood covering up human sins in a new light–the sins are no longer counted because the agent that caused them in the first place, the human psyche, has been willingly overridden by Jesus.

      (And if this turns out to be true…Bush thought the 9/11 berserkers hated freedom? He might want to take a look at this particular conceit…)

  2. *headdesk*

    I’m not sure which is worse (from a fiction standpoint): that conversion doesn’t have any affect on Paul’s behavior or that none of the miracles are miraculous. Both seem like serious failures – ones you’d expect an editor to point out.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      Remember which author we’re talking about — Jerry “Buck” Jenkins, Greatest CHRISTIAN Author of All Time (GCAAT).

      A CELEBRITY Author.

      And no editor dares point out anything to a CELEBRITY author if he wants to keep collecting his editor’s paycheck.

      • What, are celebrities incapable of understanding that they’re capable of error? “Greatest” doesn’t auto-imply *infinite* competence, after all.

      • Oh, I know. Once you’re famous, they replace your editor with a particularly dim goldfish, but that fact never stops being annoying – whether the author is Jerry Jenkins or JK Rowling, (Or anyone else on that long, long list of people who desperately needed even a good friend to look over their shoulder and say “Er, what?”

        • If you know the right people, they’ll do this even before your famous. (Glares *hard* at Christopher Paolini)

          • Is that the guy who edits Dan Brown?

          • Yes, indeed. Sadly, I think if he’d had editors, while he might not have written something earth-shatteringly new and different, he’d have written a decent fantasy series. Without them… well, the first book is sort-of readable due to his enthusiasm. After that, it’s all downhill.

  3. This is the problem when you’re trying to write supernatural fiction but still claim that your biggest supernatural force is as real in this world as it is in the novel. This God is the same as the Christian God, but since in our world everything they could attribute to God’s will also has a scientific explanation (and plausible deniability of God’s interference) they have to do the same thing here.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      You want supernatural in fiction that doesn’t pull any punches, take a look at Muktuk Wolfsbreath, Hardboiled Shaman by Terry Laban. The supernatural of a Siberian shaman is presented as just as real as the Siberian winter.

      But in our GCAAT’s claim to fame (Left Behind), someone at Slacktivist commented that in explaining the events of Revelation with “also a scientific explanation (with plausible deniability of God’s interference)”, they have abandoned the imagery and power of Myth for a Christianese knockoff of a conventional technothriller.

      Jerry Jenkins, GCAAT, made the End of the World BORING. The Book of Revelation, packed with trippy surreal imagery. BORING. You expect anything else of him in a contemporary retelling of the Book of Acts?

      • And now I’ve just wasted half an hour on the archives, thanks.

        In your average supernatural thriller you get gods and demons with obvious abilities that you don’t see in our world. But LaJenkins can’t go doing that, because that makes fictional!God do something that real!God doesn’t do, and that might make real!God look bad. So his God becomes the most boring God ever, because he can’t do anything that looks like the confirmed, indisputable hand of God.

  4. Yeah, Jae’s confrontation would be the “final step” because it would involve something actually changing. She can be as unhappy as she likes, but as long as she’s still playing the good wife in public they can both pretend to the world that nothing’s really wrong. Simmering resentment, it’s the RTC way!

    Seiberwing, it’s just a pity they can’t reach out for any of the better explanations of “why God doesn’t do blatant miracles” that other Christians have come up with. Largely because they’re claiming that God will do blatant miracles, but only in the process of destroying the world.

  5. Romans 7:

    7 For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.
    8 I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I.
    9 But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.
    10 And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband:

    So the only reason (in someone’s eyes) for Paul to have married Jae in the first place is to keep him from fooling around with other women, and she can’t even do that right! No wonder he steers clear of her!
    (New interface, so, apologies if it doesn’t take the markup as I’m hoping.)

  6. Bificommander

    Well, I have to at least admit L&J didn’t write Jae as bending over backward the second Paul is converts, and she’s only mildly blamed for it. It’s not much, but more than I expected. I second the ANTB label.

    And as already stated, for someone who has barely even heard of christianity, Jae is remarkably obedient to it’s principles. A far cry from the ungodly chaos that the fundies keep assuring us will happen if they don’t keep a tight grip on the world and let gays do whatever they want (Also, have we seen any gays yet? It’s an atheist dictatorship, it should make Sodom look like a children’s playground according to their warnings, and a children’s playground like Sodom according to the whole slippery slope argument of gay marriage -> pedophilia).

    Really, I’m an atheist, but if you’d ask me to write a story about a world where atheism reigns supreme and all religious believers are persecuted, I’d write something way creepier than this world. I’d look up stuff from East Germany’s Stasi-paranoia, or Stalin’s supression of any science result that doesn’t match the party line (even in math fields). An atheist theocracy, like all dictatorships, will have a pervasive effect on the whole of society IMHO. But L&J don’t care about that. RTCs are being killed, what more do they need to show this world is horrible? But you know, the majority of the world seems quite content with this new movement with no massive false persecutions or turning in your neighbours, and there’s world peace, and great technological and medical progress. And persecution of religious people is happening right now too (not of the RTCs in the US, but there’s plenty of places where it does happen) and we DON’T have world peace to compensate for it. All in all, atheist-topia really is an improvement over our current and past situation.

    Oh, and I came in late during the last discussion, so I’d like to ask this one more time: How does ‘Soon’ fit in with the Left Behind timeline according to L&J? Because Left Behind was supposed to show exactly what Bible prophicised would happen in the future. But here there hasn’t been a rapture or the rise of the antichrist, but WW3 already happened and both persecution of all religions and the evil, evil goal of world peace has been achieved. And the miracles also seem to happen differently. So is this an update, a correction on the timeline for the end times by LaHaye? A ‘What if’ story that shows how else God could destroy the world if he wanted to, but otherwise intended as some light fiction reading about murderous atheists? Or is this something that could happen ‘Soon’ before the real Rapture and rise of the antichrist? Cause I don’t see what Nicky can offer this world. It’s already at peace and prosperous, and there are no churches left to merge into the One World Religion. Anyone know?

    • Bificommander, to take your last point first, my understanding is that it doesn’t fit together – this is explicitly a work of fiction, whereas Left Behind is presented as a fictionalised account of what will really happen (I suppose the equivalent would be a story of the American Civil War, told from the perspective of some reported in Washington who never actually saw it).

      If I were to write a realistic world without religion, I think there’d have to be some big religious event first – say, the religious leaders of the Christians and the Moslems and the Hindus and the Buddhists all got together to do something really horrible. (This would require massive cynicism on the part of those leaders, or truly cunning psywar ops against them.) At that point I can see the survivors saying “look, religion is all very well, but clearly it’s what got us into this mess” and getting some actual support. Otherwise – I realise it’s a hard distinction to make from the RTC viewpoint – people will just keep chopping off the tendrils of religion that poke outside acceptable behaviour, and not feel any need to kill the whole thing.

      • Bificommander

        Weird to title your novel ‘Soon’ then. Given their earlier work of ‘hystorical science fiction’, the title Soon suggest “This is going to happen soon”.

        You know, it must take effort to be this creepy. You honestly believe and write about a future where all non RTCs will be deceived by an Anti-Christ who will persecute Christians… and while you’re not busy with that, you’re writing more fictional stories about non RTCs persecuting Christians. About events that, according to your own believes, CAN NEVER HAPPEN, but in which you still categorically demonize your enemies.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy

          Weird to title your novel ‘Soon’ then.

          When The World Ends Tomorrow (at the latest) and It’s All Gonna Burn, you have to cram the entire future into the Very Near Future, i.e. “Soon”.

          And what results is a very cramped and lame and dark future, Soon to be followed by No-Future. Like a 6014-year-old, Earth-and-some-lights-in-the-sky Punyverse, there is no room for greatness or grandeur or epic.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      And as already stated, for someone who has barely even heard of christianity, Jae is remarkably obedient to it’s principles.

      Just like all the Atheist Atheists in Atheistopia all speak (and think in) fluent Christianese. (Pergamum Medal of Atheism, anyone?)

      The target audience of Soon and all Christian (TM) fiction — the Church Ladies — will accept nothing else. EVERYBODY knows and speaks Christianese!

      But you know, the majority of the world seems quite content with this new movement with no massive false persecutions or turning in your neighbours, and there’s world peace, and great technological and medical progress. And persecution of religious people is happening right now too (not of the RTCs in the US, but there’s plenty of places where it does happen) and we DON’T have world peace to compensate for it. All in all, atheist-topia really is an improvement over our current and past situation.

      For a “Near Future Persecution Dystopia” (a common future in Christianese attempts at SF), Jenkins is completely out to sea on the concept of “Dystopia”. The only thing that defines it as a Dystopia is those Heathen Atheists are calling the shots instead of their mortal enemies the Born-Again Bible-Believing Evangelical RTCs (TM). (And Jenkins used that exact phrasing from one of the cackling Conspiracy bad guys in another of his novels — “Our Greatest Enemy, Born-Again Bible-Believing Evangelical Christians!”)

    • Post on LB/Soon timelines coming…er, soon!

  7. Headless Unicorn Guy

    I would also be royally pissed that this is approximately the 4,732nd time Paul has jumped into a pile of shit and come out smelling like a rose.

    Paul Apostle-spelled-sideways wouldn’t happen to be an Author Self-Insert (like Eragon and Bella), would he?

  8. I admire Jerry Jenkins for blazing a whole new literary trail. He is a master at creating characters who undergo major life epiphanies, and then utterly fail to alter their behavior in any way. It’s not quite the Ignored Epiphany trope, because the epiphany sticks; Paul, Rayford, et al. really do convert and stay converted. It just never crosses their minds that their spiritual transformation might also involve some change in the way they think, act, and treat others.

    I would like to see more stories in this fascinating vein. I think some of our beloved classics could be improved with the guidance of Jenkins’ inimitable touch:

    ——

    “What’s to-day?” cried Scrooge, calling downward to a boy in Sunday clothes, who perhaps had loitered in to look about him.

    “Eh?” returned the boy, with all his might of wonder.

    “What’s to-day, my fine fellow?” said Scrooge.

    “To-day!” replied the boy. “Why, CHRISTMAS DAY.”

    “No, you cloth-headed urchin,” said Scrooge. “Of course it’s Christmas. I mean, is it Sunday, or Wednesday, or what? Bah! never mind, I’ll find out myself. Away with you, you wretched lackwit, or I’ll have the constables upon you before you can blink!”

    The boy was off like a shot.

    “Ho, ho!” chuckled Scrooge, hurling a piece of coal at the retreating youth’s head for good measure. “Why, I feel as jolly as a school-boy this morning!”

    • INT DEATH STAR – MAIN DOCKING BAY

      DARTH VADER
      Luke … help me take … this mask off.

      LUKE
      But you’ll die.

      VADER
      Nothing can stop that now. Just for once … let me look on you with my own eyes.

      Slowly, hesitantly, Luke bends down to detach the mask.

      VADER
      Okay, now keep this latch held down and then pull … no, you’ve got to PULL. Use both hands — no, KEEP THE LATCH pressed down. With your OTHER hand. Why can’t you handle simple electronics? My own son and you can’t even — ah, never mind. Are you crying again?

  9. And what happened then? Well, in Whoville they say
    That the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day!
    “Well, that feels much better!” he said. “Much less tight.”
    And so saying, he zoomed home before morning light —

    “Well anyhow, back to work,” said the Grinch with a toot,
    And spread out his presents and all of his loot.
    He spread out the checkerboards, popguns and snozzles,
    The trimmings, the wrappings, even the Rim-Bim-Bimbozzles!

    The Whos were forgotten, and Whoville lay still
    While the Grinch enjoyed Christmas in his cave on the hill.
    Soon the table was set for a grand one-Grinch feast,
    And he — he himself! — ate the whole Roast Beast.

  10. Vermic, please accept these two internets I picked up recently, plus a third from my cold storage facility. I will now ponder how I might win one back.

  11. So, he’s surprised, as one would be when someone beats long odds, but I don’t see Bihari calling a press conference or even getting another expert in to see if s/he has ever seen anything like this. Probably because Bihari was always of the opinion that Paul might actually regain his sight.

    The doctor thinks it’s a rare-but-possible case of spontaneous remission, and the fundamentalist thinks that it’s clear and unambiguous proof of God’s intervention that anyone should be able to see if not blinded by secularism. Where have I heard this before? (And why does it never involve “His arm’s grown back!” or other forms of easily verified and genuinely impossible miracle healing? Does God have it in for amputees or something?)

  12. Headless Unicorn Guy

    The Reflecting Pool in Washington turned to blood.

    An earthquake happened in California.

    An oil well caught fire in TEXAS.

    Trees died in Washington.

    And don’t forget Bia Balaam and her Magickal PenUmbrella!

    “Miracles do not come so cheap.”
    — Father Brown, in “The Miracle of Father Brown” by G.K.Chesterton

  13. Yeah! Let’s talk about the miracle of no war anywhere for “more than a generation”! And the miracle of cures for almost all the cancers. And the miracle of solar-powered cars that actually work. And…

    • When you say it like that, it’s almost like the atheists did more for the good of humanity than TurboJesus. Stop that right now.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy

        I think that just points out the (sadly widespread) Failure of Imagination among RTC authors like Jenkins.

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